Guest Post: Lean Material Handling: Making Production More Efficient and Profitable
Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M. She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.
Lean manufacturing seeks out and eliminates waste wherever it can be found. One process that can be overlooked in a manufacturing business is the very end, where products are stacked on pallets, wrapped and shipped out. What follows are a number of ways you can reduce wasted time, effort and money by finding efficiencies in your pallet packing processes.
Material handling and lean manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Without efficient material handling processes, factories and warehouses can’t fully integrate lean manufacturing into their operations.
If you want to increase production time and reduce waste in your manufacturing business, take lean material handling practices seriously. These suggestions should inspire you to make changes in your warehouse operations.
Reduce mistakes, eliminate waste
The most basic principle of lean manufacturing is eliminating waste — wasted time, inventory, movements or processes. Your production systems should be so efficient that employees know exactly what to do with each part, how to do it and when to do it.
It’s important to remember that working faster doesn’t always mean working more efficiently. Take the time to figure out the simplest method of doing something and make that the standard of operation. Ensure that all processes are scheduled to eliminate lag time between work stations; workers shouldn’t have to wait on needed parts, and materials should be worked on immediately.
Improve efficiency with standardized routes
Material handling routes can either make or break a production line. Standardized material handling routes ensure that the appropriate parts reach their destinations on time, that there are no waiting times and that production runs smoothly. Employ standardized schedules in these areas for an efficient material handling route:
- Deliver all components on time. This is achieved by setting up kanbans (signposts or billboards) at predetermined locations so that material handlers know exactly which components to deliver to specific work areas. Each component retrieval cycle should take the same amount of time.
- Use the right equipment to transport components. The weight and amount of components being transported should determine the kind of equipment needed to safely and quickly move them to the designated area.
- Set up even pulls. The amount of finished goods pulled throughout the day should be enough for each employee to manage throughout the duration of his shift, without lag time or being overwhelmed.
Invest in necessary equipment
Using the right material handling equipment to transport and store inventory increases available space and improves production time. For instance, using forklifts to carry multiple heavy items — instead of using dollies to carry a few items at a time — is safer for employees and moves inventory from point A to point B quickly.
Automated storage systems aren’t exactly necessary, but they do accurately track inventory and allow employees to quickly find necessary parts. With these systems, employees input the materials they need into the storage system, and it automatically retrieves the item, without wasted time searching each shelf.
Accurately track material handling costs
Most — if not all — pricing methods in manufacturing are estimated based on actual production time and overhead. In order to get an accurate amount of time spent on an area of production, estimators must frequently communicate with employees and managers to find out where inefficiencies exist and figure out how to eliminate them.
Systems like cost-estimating software track the efficiency and processes using existing manufacturing standards and data. This makes it possible for estimators and accountants to change their company’s processes by adding and modifying the software’s data to accommodate specific needs. Doing so provides accurate information regarding production schedules and pricing, so your company can provide clients with more accurate quotes.
Material handling processes have come a long way from the inefficient systems of decades past, but there’s always room for improvement in the production industry. Constantly examining and identifying flaws in the system is key to making your business a lean, mean manufacturing machine.